Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Avoid the three most common traps for marketers

by Umar Akhtar, co-founder and CMO, Qudo 

With the explosion of AI tools, advanced technology and rapidly changing consumer habits, marketing is now hugely different to what it was just a few years ago.

Under the spotlight of bad press because of bad practice and not putting the customer first, an increased awareness of the industry has led to a misperception that marketing is a distraction, or, at worst, an obstruction. With the ongoing economic turmoil, businesses are looking to cut budgets wherever they can – and this often means marketing and advertising. As a marketer, the question I always ask myself is: how can I show my value?

As HubSpot’s Dan Zarrella said, “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed”, but in reality it’s a bit more complicated. The main goal for any marketer is getting access to the data they need to know what will resonate with consumers. According to Accenture, three quarters of consumers are more likely to buy from brands offering personalised experiences. 

This seems easy enough, right? And in theory it is – acquire the data, identify consumer habits and create a compelling campaign that secures the desired results. But where marketers tend to fall short is that they stumble into a series of common traps that stop them harnessing demand. To stand out from the crowd and provide powerful marketing, marketers need to recognise these traps to understand how to avoid them. 

  1. Ignore the importance of ‘knowing the consumer’ at your peril

Humans are complex, and their consumption habits even more so. That’s why the core rule of marketing is to grasp consumer behaviour. Without this knowledge, marketers are taking a shot in the dark and businesses risk throwing money down the drain. A lack of understanding when it comes to consumers’ mindset is often the make-or-break for a campaign. 

For too long the industry has relied on third-party cookies to inform its understanding of consumer habits. But as the cookieless future looms over the industry, marketers have been making the move to first-party data, which is collected directly from consumers, either actively or passively. Like cookies, first-party data can help marketers learn more about consumers, but it also comes with data privacy concerns of its own such as passive collection of information and hyper-personalised content.

The solution is zero-party data – data collected anonymously with the consent of participants. Customer and audience profiles built using zero-party data are often richer and filled with more nuanced insights – consumers are so much more likely to share information when they know it’s anonymous. 

But marketers who don’t take the time or invest in the resources to better understand their audience risk campaigns falling flat. The best way to defeat a Goliath and challenge old habits is to force it into a box.

  1. Nailing the problem statement and unlocking greater insights 

Another common mistake is focusing too much on personalisation without stepping back to consider whether a campaign is meaningful too. This happens when marketers ignore the most important step in consumer research: the problem statement. This is what you’re trying to figure out about your audience. Without it, your campaign is pretty much worthless. 

Consumers want personalised content, but no amount of personalisation can mask the fact that any campaign must be meaningful. They’ve got to address a particular problem or concern that consumers face.

Marketers need to consider when and where personalisation is applied. A personalised email campaign about shoes is likely to resonate well with shoppers. For example, I’d be happy to receive an email about trainers or work shoes that has clearly been catered to me – it makes my life easier and stops mindless scrolling on websites.

On the other hand, medical products and services will require minimal personalisation but need to provide more of an impact. Consider this – if a random website you visited once started to send you hyper-personalised medical information you’d be alarmed. At the beginning of a campaign, marketing teams should ensure they have a clear vision of how to make campaigns both personalised and meaningful.

  1. Not using the tools available

Whether you’re for or against it, generative AI has changed the marketing game. While it’s easy to focus on the negatives of new technologies, those that refuse to use them miss out on countless benefits. 

Marketers can use AI, alongside automation tools, to unlock huge boosts in efficiency. From using AI to kick-off brainstorms, to automating the consumer research process, advancements in technology allow marketers to work smarter rather than harder, leaving more time for strategic planning and execution. 

Technology enables marketers to get more out of the consumer research process. For example, by generating questionnaires in real-time using AI. At Qudo, we’ve had a positive stance on AI since the beginning and have been willing to test it in various scenarios to see how it can help us deliver better insights to customers. We’ve been training AI tools to behave like segment personas, allowing users to query data using natural language. This not only allows us to benefit from advancements in technology, but also gives our customers a greater experience.

Smaller businesses have a huge opportunity here to embrace AI and automation. Unlike larger, multinational companies that require huge amounts of red-tape to sign-off use of new technologies, smaller businesses can grab the bull by the horns and propel themselves forward to becoming trailblazers. 

Embracing change

Marketing is a diverse and complex industry and all marketers, no matter their experience, will fall into a trap at one time or another. The most important aspect of a good marketer is understanding how to get out of a trap and resolve any mistakes made. 

As technology advances and the marketing industry evolves with it, there’s no doubt that marketers will face more obstacles. But, by prioritising ‘knowing the consumer’, ensuring campaigns are both personalised and meaningful, and using technology where applicable, marketers will come out on top. Who wouldn’t want that? Marketers who refuse to iron out their mistakes will inevitably lose clients, credibility and cut through in a rapidly changing industry.